Friday, November 18, 2011

Kiss and Sell

Sorry guys, I am clueless. I didn’t get it. Did you?

I mean, how can Benetton sell clothes by splashing digitally morphed pictures of famous adversaries, puckering up? What is the connection between clothes, hate, Pope and Obama? Ahh..Sensationalism! Shock therapy to grab eye balls. That’s what it is. To kiss and sell.

Unless of course, Benetton is in the race for the coveted Nobel Peace Prize!! But if that were the case, a simple embrace would have done the job. It is the lip-lock which has stirred a hornets’ nest. Understandably so! So what if the religious leaders preach love? How can Pope Benedict XVI lock lips with Ahmed el Tayyeb, the Imam of al-Azhar mosque in Egypt?

Is this what the world is coming to?

Within a day, Benetton had to remove the campaign after Vatican issued stern disapproval. But the purpose was served. Benetton got what it wanted. Recognition. That the campaign propagated further hatred is another matter. Their cause was noble. To ‘un-hate.’ Just like one would unfriend a friend on Facebook.

Allessandro Benetton, the deputy Chairman of Benetton says, “Kiss is a statement of tolerating differences. There are worse things that show up on the internet these days.”

Going by that logic, some manipulated imagery can be used by Kalpana sarees or a Kalaniketan. They can put up hoardings of Madam and Maneka in a firm embrace. Or perhaps Sushma and Sonia. Imagine the sale of saris? The idea remains, to be tolerant!

With the forthcoming UP elections, Behenji and Pehelwaan can well..err..I will let your imagination do the rest. The idea remains, to be tolerant.

When love is in the air, Salman and Shahrukh can lock lips and show the world that a kiss is a statement of tolerating differences.

And if a photograph can resolve differences between Israel and Palestine, what is to stop Zardari and Dr. Singh to smooch in public and solve the intractable Kashmir imbroglio. In fact Benetton did think of the same but refrained, fearing a backlash.People are not naive enough to believe that fake bonhomie can solve problems.

Prasoon Joshi, the advertising guru thinks that Benetton has set the tone for a larger debate. The advertiser should establish a dialogue with his consumer beyond the realm of the product. Consumers can no longer be a passive audience. Fine. But in what manner should the dialogue be initiated, is the question.
On a personal note, I find the advertisement funny. But several others are offended. One has to respect cultural sensibilities. Even when money is the only moral in the marketplace.

This is not the first time Benetton has treaded an unconventional path. In 1990 they showed a young nun kissing a priest and a black stallion mounting a white horse. If prodded, Benetton is likely to say that they were statements of tolerating differences. 

So be it.
Digvijay can go smooch Anna.


  1. I did not see the pic Alks and commented about lack of public tolerance and need for freedom of expression-but then the image here is too explicit and absolutely unrequired to market clothes of all the things!

    you've made the absolute valid point!

  2. I have seen all the photographs and deliberately kept them out of my blog! Well, all orthodox will come and start biting me then. I liked the photograph you chose.

    Coming to the topic, I actually like controversial ads. It's a good fun, this one certain was below the belt, though not a blow job, but distasteful to some.

    I wouldn't be surprised if this did raise their sales. And, I would have bought the T-Shirt with Pope on it :D Just for the sake of it.

  3. to me ..I would say its a cheap way of marketing or promoting sales..
    A product sells on its own merit.. Kissing each other or goin out of \the way nothing but desperation to sell the products..
    People who made name never stoop so low..
    A good Example:Apple is one of them!

  4. Sensationalism is an old marketing gimmick to sell. There is a story of a man who made millions in New York by selling Alpine Air! many years ago, in a bizarre manner, claiming that a whiff of this could simulate the air in Alps!So Benetton, knows.. make hay while the sun shines!

  5. Advertising has become an art of grabbing the eyeballs, by hook or crook. Gone are the days when product specifications had any say in it.

  6. @Suruchi..yes, the pics are explicit and some of them are in bad taste too.

    @Chintan..Taking pot shots at each other as Pepsi and Coke used to do earlier was smart advertising...It generated interest.It was fun too..even Kingfisher and Haywards indulged in poking fun at each other but ended up offending one community. It was interesting though.
    But pure controversy by Benetton smacks of desperation somewhere.

  7. @Harman...True and like Apple perhaps their product is not able to speak for itself...

    @Rahul...Really...I never knew.True

    @Harish...True, unless the product outshines.

  8. Had this been an Indian clothing line advertisement, I could have somehow understand. How? Let's not forget the fact that after applying Fair and Lovely a rejected girl gets an ad/boyfriend then why not homosexual image can be used to sell clothes in India, since this is an international affair, stunned

  9. Hey Alka, my comment has vanished! i posted such a long one this morning.

  10. Benetton got what they wanted...publicity at any cost is what people like Pope or Obama wants for themselves...tables are turned now...i found those ads hilarious :)

  11. smart advertising companies will get away with best campagins turning controversial.

  12. Alka,

    Greed, in this case of expanding business, throws propriety out of window. The only thing which is in their vision is the BOTTOM LINE.

    Take care

  13. @Prateek...They all resort to the same tactics...


    @SUB....Depends on how one looks at it...Even I found them funny..But for some they were in very bad taste.Hows the little one? Keeping u awake?

  14. @BKC....True

    @Jack...Well said.

    @Mani...Glad u liked it.

  15. I tried hard to comment on your previous post but wasn't successful... That was fabulously written.. UP ends in 4 states.. the war begins...

    Well, then boys and girls would end up fighting just to get a kiss.. :P

    Weakest LINK

  16. getting attention is what was the aim.cant believe the ad boses were stupid to let this one was all pre meditated.they succeeded anyhow

  17. of course, there was no doubt it was a publicity stunt.. the basic thought process may have been 'cute' with the 'unhate' theme..if u'd stuck to puppies and kittens together, geat.. but when u go after world leaders without thinking, what do u expect !!!

  18. I see it has an absolutely smart tactic because no matter what this ad campaign will be noticed.. see so many of are discussing it here on your blog :) so the next time we see benetton shop in a shopping mall , it would most likely stand out because we will remember what ads of "Benetton" we saw and discussed :)
    Hence the Mission was benetton is actually accomplished by making us discuss it :)... now I will go and discuss the same with my husband and friends and family ;) ;)

  19. I am grossed by this campaign.. but the thought process that must have gone ito it.. must hsve been amazing... kissing and selling... so be it.

  20. I remember how the media had gone viral with the Rajiv-Benazir pair met back in 80's. While some heaped phony romanticism even as some crooned rather colourful (and not-so-subtle) themes. It didn't dent the Indo-Pak impasse then and history repeated itself with Vajpayee's overtures to the rogue nation. It turns out then that these are nothing but phony sales tricks, as you say, which temporarily dazzle the target audience.

  21. @Rachit...Thanks Rachit. Warning! Dont try Benettons trick with the girl you fancy, she might not tolerate

    @maniachunter...But will it translate into sales?

    @Dr Roshan..True.

  22. are right about the recall value but will it translate into sales?

    @Sakshi..So be it...but will they sell more?

    @Umashankar...I remember that too...the jhappi and the pappi diplomacy..nothing resolved so far.

  23. I hope people don't get ideas from the Benetton ad and start a kissing frenzy!
    Man! where's that blueberry lip balm of mine :p

  24. Does Benetton really think that by putting up such ridiculous, unsavory advert posters, it will solve the political problems ailing the world? If it does, nobody should have a problem. Being unconventional and offending sensibilities to grab eyeballs and media attention seem to be catching up. It wouldn't be surprising if people vouch for them citing freedom of speech and expression.

  25. On a personal note I would hate to live in a world where everyone smooched everyone and there were no fights.
    The only thing I could manage was a raised eyebrow when I heard about the unhate campaign.

  26. i am sure u will like "surely you are joking mr. feynman"